Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Overthinking the Marathon...

I recently picked up and read a copy of Ray Charbonneau’s self-published work, Overthinking the Marathon. From the very beginning, the author’s conversational style grabbed me. Every day as he trained for the 2012 Cape Cod Marathon, he “scribbled” out a personal story worth reading. He made me feel like a friend he was sharing an important part of his life with.

Sometimes his tales were filled with wild animals (mostly bunnies). He considered these to be good omens worth mentioning on dozens of occasions.

Ray often talked about his wife’s training for her third marathon. I appreciated the way he spoke of his wife with great respect. His obvious love for her was refreshing in a world where spouses are so often grumping and complaining about each other. He cheered for her as much as she did for him.

There were also plenty of reports on his running club’s outings. He talked about their regular events and the special things they did together. Sometimes he’d miss a run to judge a cooking contest that the group was putting on. Other times, he’d volunteer at a race with others from the club. As a reader, I almost felt like I was a part of the Sommerville Road Runners when the last page was turned.

Ray running in an event
I laughed throughout the book as Ray described the adjustments he made to his shoe inserts. He changed his mind about what he needed more often than I could imagine anyone doing. He’d add a shim here and a wedge there.

The race reports sprinkled throughout the book were as detailed as anyone could ask for. He talked about the joys and successes right along with the aches and pains and disappointments. He was honest about his mistakes and admitted in the end that he probably raced too much in his lead up to the Cape Cod.

Charbonneau has a knack for making running advice interesting and helpful. In my favorite chapter of the entire book, “This I Believe,” he reasoned with his readers that longer-than-marathon runs are necessary for everyone training for a fast marathon. His logic was clear and quite convincing. Here’s just one paragraph worth of his advice.

“Plan to run the extra-long run slower than usual so it doesn’t take too much out of you. Don’t worry about the time. Your only goal is to put in the distance. Run comfortably; take walking breaks if you want. Stop at a store to get more sports drink, or on a bridge to admire the view.” (Sorry no page numbers on the Kindle. You can look for Thursday, August 16th.)

As a cyclist and runner who loves both sports, I was greatly entertained by Ray’s great dislike of cycling. His tales of woe and of trying out clipless pedals made me smile as I remembered my own plunge into the world of complete attachment to the bike.

The culmination of the book, the high point, was Charbonneau’s post-race report on the Cape Cod Marathon. Throughout the book he’d been working hard to be ready for a Boston qualifying time at the October race. Running with him every mile of the way from the starting line to the finish was a satisfying journey. I’ll let you read the book to find out if he met his BQ goal. I’d hate to ruin the surprise.

Ray and Mike meet before
the 2013 Boston Marathon
Having finished Overthinking the Marathon, I am ready to read another of his books. Right now, I’ve got my eye on Chasing the Runner’s High: My Sixty Million-Step Plan. Just the title makes me want to pick it up and start reading.

(Update: Ray ran in the 2013 Boston Marathon as a guide for a visually impaired runner named Mike. The two of them crossed the finish line in 3:58 (chip time). The time on the clock was 4:05. The pair walked away from the finish area just five to six minutes before the bombs went off.)

GIVEAWAY: Tasha won an eBook copy of "Overthinking the Marathon" on Wednesday, Apri 24, 2013. Thanks to all who read the review. A big thank you goes to Ray for making this giveaway possible.
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